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This is the free app ISS astronauts use for Earth photos

Orbiting Earth 16 times a day means there’s an abundance of amazing photo opportunities for astronauts staying aboard the International Space Station.

During his recent six-month visit to the space-based facility, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet spoiled us with a slew of astonishing Earth images snapped from 250 miles up.

Toward the end of his mission in November, Pesquet revealed how he managed to capture impressive imagery on such a consistent basis (spoiler: A lot of preparation is required).

In a tweet this week, current ISS inhabitant Matthias Maurer offered additional insight into how astronauts observe Earth, even sharing the name of the mobile app that helps them spot places of interest.

“To find out where we are above Earth & not miss any interesting photo opportunities, space station astronauts use an app called GoISSwatch & NASA’s ‘World Map’ programme,” Maurer, who arrived at the ISS in November, said in a tweet. “These also show weather conditions & Earth observation targets for the perfect [photos].”

Where on Earth…? 🤔 To find out where we are above Earth & not miss any interesting photo opportunities, @Space_Station astronauts use an app called GoISSwatch & @NASA's "World Map" programme. These also show weather conditions & Earth observation targets for the perfect 📸

— Matthias Maurer (@astro_matthias) January 13, 2022

Developed by GoSoftWorks, the GoISSWatch app (free for iPhone and iPad) shows astronauts the space station’s predicted route as it orbits Earth.

For earthlings looking up, the same iOS app (Android users can try this one) offers real-time time tracking of the ISS. It also lets you know when the station will be passing over your neighborhood, giving you the chance to spot the orbital satellite yourself (no special equipment needed, only clear skies!).

The app’s notification feature means you can plan ahead if you’re interested in trying to take a photo of the station in the night sky. In a reply to Maurer’s message, stargazer Steve Rice revealed that he uses the app for exactly that purpose. He included in his tweet a wonderful long-exposure image that he took of the ISS:

As Rice pointed out, he uses a paid version of GoSoftWork’s app called GoSatWatch ($10) that lets you track not only the ISS, but also numerous other satellites orbiting Earth. It also lets you track SpaceX spacecraft during missions to and from the ISS. However, GoSoftWork’s free app will do the job if you’re only interested in spotting the space station.

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Trevor Mogg
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